What do carbohydrates do for my cat?

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The answer to this is really more what carbohydrates can do to your cat.

Although carbohydrates provide energy, they are made up primarily of sugars, starches and cellulose (fiber) and are supplied in the diet from plant sources such as grains and vegetables.

Cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissues to meet their specific and unique nutritional requirements. In their natural habitat, cats consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and small amounts of carbohydrates. Thus, they are metabolically adapted for higher metabolism of proteins and lower utilization of carbohydrates than dogs or other omnivores. Although cats can use carbohydrates as a source of metabolic energy, they have limited ability to spare protein utilization by using carbohydrates instead. Therefore, their diet should be comprised of proteins, fats,
carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water in the correct proportions. A cat food that meets these requirements is called a “Complete” or “Balanced” diet. The amount of food a cat requires depends on the cat’s age, breed, gender, activity, temperament, environment and metabolism.

Sometimes a pet food manufacturer will include some fruits and vegetables to increase the nutritional content but, the truth is, cats just don’t need them; not only are they deficient in the enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates, but they also lack a salivary enzyme called amylase.

So how can it harm them? Everything, nutritionally, revolves around the cat’s need for the essential amino acid, taurine. A lack of taurine can result in many problems, ranging from eye to neurological and from immune to cardiovascular. Unlike dogs, who are able to manufacture taurine in their bodies, cats cannot and, therefore, need to rely on diet to obtain it. Taurine is only found in meat and fish; that means if you feed your cat primarily grains, plant-based foods and other carbohydrates, she will not get sufficient taurine.

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